Adapt & Improvise | A Covid-19 Lesson in Learning?

Author: Jimmy Young

Humans are social animals, we need all types of connections. Covid-19 has changed how we communicate, do business, and teach now what?

Adapt and improvise. It’s a lesson I teach to my students at Emerson College this semester, and in the past at other colleges. Covid-19 has forced us all to adapt our personal and professional lives in order to control a virus that has altered how we communicate, do business, and teach. Can this end up being a positive development in our development in a modern society?

I had an opportunity to listen to three extremely successful business leaders talk about that last week on our Weed Talk Now Special with Bruce Linton (Ex-CEO of Canopy Growth), Joe Lusardi (Curaleaf CEO), and Chris Walsh (MJBiz Daily).

(I say “listen” not “talk.” That might come as a surprise to my honey. She recognizes my gender’s character flaw of selective listening!)

As an Emmy Award winning TV Talk Show host I teach the most important skill in an interview is not just asking well thought out and researched questions, but listening to the answers, then, adapting and improvising with a question not typical. (That’s a good question! The perfect complement in an interview!)

“I think the effect of things like Zoom and this, and a bunch of the businesses I'm involved in, they are now probably going to shrink their actual physical office space to about a third of what we were carrying before. And there will be gatherings, but there won't be offices all the time for everybody, and there will be cycles where we get together, rather than carry a huge burden for real estate. We don't need them.” Bruce Linton

“I really believe this will change how companies operate. Even in our business, we have people traveling all around the country all the time. I think we're all saying to ourselves now, "Does that make sense? Is that even necessary, with technology? Do we need offices to do stuff the way we used to?" Joe Lusardi

So, is the handshake deal, a thing of the past? Is in-person teaching going to be replaced by on-line education? What about the power of touch? Are all of these basic parts of human interaction going to become a thing of the past? Are we all turning into talking heads, while dressed in shorts and sweatpants below the “ZOOM” eye?

As someone who has learned and preached the importance and power of face to face communication, I am worried sick. However, after listening to Joe, Bruce, and Chris talk about life after Covid-19, I think there actually might be a silver lining in this. While most of us have been cooped up indoors (except for a daily walk, jog, run, bike outdoors) have you taken a deep breath of fresh air lately? Wow! According to our journalist friends at the Washington Post, pollution is down, our air quality has improved to a level last seen, or breathed, since 1995.

Before stay-at-home orders were issued March 16, Zhu said, the EPA’s Air Quality Index, which incorporates multiple air pollutants, including NO2 and PM2.5 (fine particulate matter), was about 60, or in the “moderate” category. Since then, it has improved by about 20 percent and recorded the longest stretch of “good” air quality in March seen since at least 1995. April-9 Washington Post, Andrew Freedman Lauren Tierney

Another positive factor in improving air quality, is the decline in air travel. While that has devastated that part of our economy, it also has socially distanced that “small world” of ours, because people are now doing their business meetings via videoconference.

So is this a “good” thing? We seem to be adapting to our new communication practices, pretty well. I mean did anybody watch the NFL draft last night? According to John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal overnight viewers increased by 52% in Boston and Philly, Chicago by 38%, and NY 13% from last year.

Another thing that Curaleaf CEO Joe Lusardi talked about was the decline in car traffic especially here in the Boston area. This is a really good thing. You know that trip to the airport on Monday mornings that used to take 90 minutes or more? Down to 18 minutes door to door Needham to Logan. I love his idea of staggering the workday, or heck let’s embrace the idea of a 10-hour workday in exchange for a 4 day week? I filled up my gas tank for under $20 for the first time in decades and most of us got a break on our auto insurance since we aren’t traveling anywhere, anymore.

How dramatic is the congestion reduction? According to the study conducted by mapping software and transportation analytics company INRIX, enough to speed up travel into the core of Chicago by 77 percent and Los Angeles by 53 percent. The study, which examined average travel speeds in 25 of the country’s most populous cities during the week of March 11-18, found increases in travel speed ranging from that 77 percent figure in Chicago to a mere 16 percent in Atlanta.

Now let’s talk about education. I’m an adjunct professor at a few colleges in the Boston area. I am a proud graduate of Tufts University, part of 3 generations of Tufts graduates in my family (Dad-David E’45; Bro-Mark BA’74; Sis in law Rachel BA’76; Me BA’79, and niece Emily BA’03; Niece in law – Jessica BA ‘04);

As a long time(35 years) youth soccer coach I’ve worked with young people teaching skills, besides how to kick and receive a soccer ball properly, with courses in multi-media communication, journalism, video production, PR, and on camera performance. My first company Young Broadcasters of America taught “Generation Text How to Talk!” I’ve written curriculum on oral communication and public speaking. I think our education system was screwed up, way before Covid-19 came around.

As a “learning challenged” adult, I know how difficult it is to adapt and improvise lessons to a varied set of students who all learn differently. Now add in the challenge of online delivery of lessons, it might be time to review how and what we are teaching our kids. Is it worth it? According to

The average total price for a 4-year degree is approximately $122,000.

  • $50,880 for a public 2-year institution (in-state rate)

  • $87,800 for a public 4-year institution (in-state rate)

  • $153,320 for a public 4-year institution (out of state)

  • $199.500 for a private nonprofit 4-year institution

Every college and university in the nation and the parents and banks who support them with financial aid, is reassessing this very factor right now. That will be a blog for another day.

For now, as we continue to adapt and improvise to our new human existence, let’s just stay safe, distanced, and sane. I just hope the hug and handshake has not disappeared from our existence in business, life and education.

I mean, don’t we all need a hug right about now?